Regressive Autism – Understanding the Causes and How to Help Your Child by Better Speech

As scientists continue to study Autistic Spectrum Disorders (ASD), they have identified two main types of the condition: identifiable from birth and one where behaviors manifest between 15 and 30 months of age. The latter may be referred to as Setback-Type Autism, Autism with Regression, Autistic Syndrome, and Autistic Regression. Although parents may start noticing the signs of skills stagnation, the regression rate may vary with each child. 

Regressive Autism Could Be Rapid or Slow

Kids with regressive autism typically develop at a natural pace. Your child may have a happy, outgoing personality like many of their friends. Within a short time, you’ll notice changes like withdrawing from usual activities, toys, and interactions with family and friends. Kids may stop responding to their names being called and turn their attention to a few selected toys and objects. They may lose many of the skills they had been learning and regress to spinning, rocking, flapping their hands, and walking on their toes. Not speaking the few words they may have learned is also a typical sign.

Added symptoms include hyperactive behavior, abnormal eating and sleeping, and unusual fears and phobias. Most parents look for a professional evaluation around this time. The expert working with your child will likely identify a timeline when they stop development or “plateau” before steadily losing their skills. Starting treatment as soon as you detect the first signals will give your child a better chance.

Understanding Why Regressive Autism Occurs

Studies conducted at the Institute at the University of California, Davis, have identified several causes of regressive autism. These triggers may range from gastrointestinal (GI) distress, changes in the brain, and immune dysfunction. Autism is a genetic condition that causes certain patterns in kids’ brain development in utero, making them more susceptible to stimuli and environmental conditions. 

Research also points to excessive levels of a specific kind of immune cells called dendritic cells in autistic kids. This abnormality could be linked to an enlarged amygdala, the brain section that controls emotions and deals with social interactions. Yet another study indicates that anti-brain antibodies damage the brain cells of the developing fetus by penetrating the blood-brain barrier in the uterus. 

Behavioral and Speech Therapy Can Help

Early detection and intervention can help kids with the symptoms of regressive autism lead happy, healthy lives. Since each child is unique, therapy is customized according to their specific behaviors and their challenges. Online speech therapy can help autistic kids recover speech skills by age 9, while holistic treatment programs can raise IQ levels by 20 points. You could enroll your child in special education programs to help them develop cognitive skills and lessen the severity of their symptoms. Aside from getting help from trained teachers and therapists, parents can engage their kids and work with them to encourage eye contact, stimulate conversation, and show affection by hugging. 

Recognizing the symptoms of regressive autism and admitting that your child needs help is a traumatic experience for parents. However, the sooner you get therapy and treatment, the better chances that your child has to lead a healthy life.

Better Speech

Thank you to Better Speech for submitting this guest post. Please check them at for more information about their services and more great educational content.

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– Michelle Moyal, Founder of Better Speech

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Amy Nielsen

Amy Nielsen is a former children's librarian of nearly twenty years. She now spends most of her time obsessively pounding on a keyboard. She is the author of It Takes a Village: How to Build a Support System for Your Exceptional Needs Family, Goldilocks and the Three Bears: Understanding Autism Spectrum Disorder. Her upcoming YA Worth it debuts in May of 2024. She is also a freelance writer for The Autism Helper. When she's not writing, she and her family are most likely crusing the waters of Tampa Bay.